Spades is a 4 player "trick taking" game. There are two teams of two, with partners sitting across from each other.
Cards are ranked from Ace (high) down to 2 (low).
The objective is to be the first team to reach 500 points.
A random player is chosen to be the dealer.
Each player is dealt a hand of 13 cards from a standard deck of 52 cards.
The player to the dealer's left goes first.
Starting with the start player and proceeding clockwise around the table, each player places a bid. They are bidding how many "tricks" they think they can take. Players may bid from 0 (nil) to 13 tricks.
Each team adds together the bids of each partner. This is the number of tricks the team must take as a whole to avoid receiving negative points.
A bid of 0 tricks is known as a "nil" bid. This player is saying that they will not take any tricks this hand. If they succeed in not taking any tricks, their team scores a bonus. If they take 1 or more tricks, they fail and their team will receive a penalty.
The start player starts the trick by playing any card from their hand, except Spades. The other players then each play a card in clockwise order until all 4 players have played a card. Whichever player played the highest card with the same suit as the lead card, takes the cards. This is known as "winning a trick".
The trick winner starts the next trick.
Players must play a card with the same suit as the lead card. If they do not have a card with that suit, they may play any card (except on the first trick, in which you may not play Spades). The first time a Spade card is played is known as "breaking spades". From this point on players can lead Spades.
Normally the highest card with the same suit as the lead card wins the trick. However, if a Spade is played on the trick, then the highest Spade card will win the trick instead. This is known as "trumping" and the Spades are considered a "trump" suit.
If it is guaranteed that your hand will win all remaining tricks, you will be presented with a TRAM button. This stands for "The Rest Are Mine". Clicking it will give you all the remaining tricks.
This is just a way to make the game move along a bit quicker. This option is only available if it is impossible for anyone else to take any tricks due to the cards you have in your hand (such as A, K, Q, J of spades).
After each hand, scores are calculated for each team.
If a team took at least as many tricks as they bid, they will gain 10 points per trick bid. Every trick taken beyond their bid is worth 1 point.
If a team did not take enough tricks to meet their bid, they will lose 10 points per trick bid. This is known as being "set". For example, if a team's combined bid is '5' and at the end of a hand they only took 4 tricks between the two of them, then they will lose 50 points.
Additionaly, for every trick taken beyond what the team bid, that team will earn a "bag". Over the course of the game these bags accumulate. Every time a team accumulates 10 bags, that team will lose 100 points.
If a player bid "nil" and successfully does not take any tricks, then their team will gain 100 points.
If a player who bid "nil" fails and takes any tricks, then their team will lose 100 points.
Note that if a "nil" bidder fails and takes tricks, those tricks do NOT count towards the team goal. A "nil" bidder is on their own and so is their teammate in regards to making the bid.
The game ends when any team reaches 500 points or falls to -200 points. The team with the highest score wins!
- Keep an eye on what has already been bid by the time it gets to you. There are only 13 tricks available to take. If the total of all bids exceeds this, then one team is guaranteed not to make their bid. Make sure it's not your team!
- If you don't have a lot of bags, it may be good to bid 1 less than you think you can take. This allows you to cover for your opponent if needed and you can always throw away cards.
- If your opponents have a lot of bags, you may wish to underbid and then force them to take tricks they do not want.
- If you are close to winning, you may want to be more conservative in your final bid to ensure you will meet your bid and still win. Just be careful of bags.
- Do not bid nil if your partner has already bid nil
- If your partner already bid, and they bid nil, you may want to bid a little higher than you normally would as you may be taking more tricks than usual as part of your duty to cover your partner.
- In general if you are the last person to play and your partner is alerady winning the trick, it's best not to steal the trick from them by playing a higher card or a trump.
- If your partner bid nil, make sure you play lots of high cards to cover them! If you play an Ace of Hearts for example, and they only play a 2 of Hearts, then they likely don't have any more Hearts. Thus it is good to continue leading Heart cards so your partner can get rid of high cards they have from other suits.
- If the bids are more than 13, then one team is guaranteed not to make their bid. In this situation it is usually useful to lead spades as soon as possible.
- More often than not, it's not the spades that cause a team to be "set" but rather the cards that are played after the spades.
- When the highest card in a suit is played, that is usually a good time to get rid of your middle cards (8, 9, 10).
Spades was invented in the the USA in the 1930s and became quite popular in the 1940s. Spades is a member of the Whist family of card games.